Talk Story host McKenna Maduli and her one-man band dad Kata Maduli welcome Ainsley Halemanu to Talk Story and to kanikapila. Ainsley, who has reached legend status as a musician, composer, recording artist, entertainer, kumu hula and Hawaiian cultural practitioner, remains humble with a great sense of humor telling McKenna he wants his legacy motto to be “feed ‘em first”. McKenna enjoys a beautiful jam of a traditional classic with Ainsley and her one-man band dad Kata Maduli.
About: Born on February 28, 1952, and raised in Kewalo–Papakōlea, Ainsley K. Halemanu is the eldest boy in a family of seven children. He is a noted musician, composer, recording artist, entertainer, kumu hula and Hawaiian cultural practitioner.
Growing up, Ainsley was surrounded by music. At Roosevelt High School, he sang in the boy’s choir, glee club, and the group Nā Mele o Papakōlea. He first recorded with the Aloha Pumehana Serenaders on the album “Hula Gems,” released in 1976 and re-issued as a CD in 2000. Besides Ainsley, the group included Darrell Lupenui, Wendell Silva, and Lanakila Manini. He also recorded with Kealoha Kalama on her “Lei Pua Keni Keni,” released in 1987.
In 1978 recording artist and entertainer Boyce Rodrigues opened the Watertown Restaurant, a popular spot for Hawaiian music. The “house band” included Kekua Fernandes, Darrell Lupenui, Leilani Sharpe Mendez, Kāwika Trask, and Sam Bernard. The late night jam sessions are remembered as the golden era in the history of Hawaiian entertainment in Waikīkī.
Ainsley started teaching hula in 1970 with his family members. His hula mentors include henry pa, Kauʻi Zuttermeister and her daughter Noenoe Zuttermeister-Lewis. In 1993 he established Hula Hālau Ka liko o ka Palai. Ainsley says he accepts any and all interested in the dance form, teaching students from all over the world. In addition to teaching them hula, he mixes in instruction in ʻukulele, bass, and slack key to provide a well– rounded music and dance education.
Recognized for his knowledge and teaching skills, Ainsley has served as a judge at the Merrie Monarch and Iā ʻOe E Ka Lā hula competitions.
For the past 23 years, Ainsley has performed at the Kūhiō Beach hula show with his Hālau Hula. For many years in the 1980s he was also at the Hale Koa Hotel performing with Kekua Fernandes, Leilani Sharpe Mendez, Evaline Teves, and Mona Teves, among others.
Ainsley is an accomplished lei maker and floral designer whose creations are sought after. He says he first learned from his grandparents who sold lei for boat days in the 1950s. He further honed his skills when his mother opened Langʻs flower shop.
Ainsley is also a gifted song composer whose “Maui nō e ka ʻoi” was released by Nā Hoa in 2018.
For more information: @ainsleykhalemanu